Abortion debate draws passionate crowd in Knox

Tempers flare as abortion-rights advocates leave debate early

On April 18, 2013

  • Approximately 200 people gathered to witness the hotly contested abortion debate in Knox 20 on Thursday evening following student protests Monday and Tuesday outside the Student Union. Alexa Strudler, The Spectrum
  • Rachel Stern (standing), a TA for global studies, cross-examines the anti-abortion side of Anna Franzonello (sitting, left) and Christian Andzel (sitting, right). Alexa Strudler, The Spectrum
  • Andzel, the UB Students For Life president, cross-examines the abortion-rights side of Stern and freshman undecided major Christian Malloy. Alexa Strudler, The Spectrum
  • After one student (pointing, in blue) shouted, “I ask you students of UB to stand up and leave with dignity with me,” Stern and eventually Malloy followed him out of Knox Lecture Hall. Malloy later came back to deliver his closing statement. Alexa Strudler, The Spectrum
  • Attendees discuss the passionate debate. Audience members frequently shouted out, causing moderator Travis Nemmer to repeatedly bang his gavel and raise his voice. Alexa Strudler, The Spectrum

On Monday and Tuesday, members of the UB community protested outside the Student Union because UB Students for Life President Christian Andzel invited the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to campus, and the group set up graphic images of aborted fetuses.

On Thursday evening, tensions between anti-abortion and abortions-rights advocates carried into Knox 20. Andzel and Anna Franzonello, a lawyer and staff counsel for Americans United For Life, debated Rachel Stern, a TA for global studies, and Christian Malloy, a freshman undecided major, on whether abortion should be considered legal or illegal.

The event got so heated that Stern and Malloy immediately left the lecture hall following cross-examinations.

An abortion-rights student stood up after the anti-abortion side's cross-examination and asked students to take a stance. "I ask you students of UB to stand up and leave with dignity with me," he proclaimed. Stern and Malloy followed the student, upset and flustered.

During Andzel's cross-examination, members of the audience repeatedly screamed out at the abortion-rights party for being "incompetent" and "unprepared."

Anti-abortion audience members shouted that the abortion-rights party had to "face the facts."

Student Association President Travis Nemmer, who moderated the debate, boisterously quieted the audience and urged people to hold their opinions until the appropriate question-and-answer period.

The anti-abortion debaters continued to insist they did not have enough time to prepare. Malloy insisted that the abortion-rights party was invited to debate 72 hours before the event, while the anti-abortion party had been preparing for at least four months.

"If you believe in something, you don't need more than 72 hours to prepare for it," said Latoya Kimberly Stew, a history graduate student.

Andzel took the stage again to explain how be believed the debate was fairly planned, explaining that his opposition canceled last week and left him scrambling to find new debaters. Andzel told the audience the abortion-rights members not only walked out on the debate but "walked out on the students."

Andzel said the "debate of the year" was all about getting the discussion rolling and he wanted to "really hone the argument of today's social issues."

After Nemmer told Malloy told his opening statement "violated the rules," Malloy announced that he had "nothing left to say" and took his seat. Malloy addressed Andzel's opening statement in his own opening words, which Nemmer said was a violation. Malloy's opening speech lasted less than a minute.

Each party took turns cross-examining the opposite side after each presented its case. Stern questioned Andzel and Franzonello. Andzel followed by questioning Stern and Malloy.

While Andzel shared his personal story of his mother putting him up for adoption due to her inability to support a child, Stern emphasized that it was Andzel's mother's choice to do so.

Hostility continued to grow, and audience members didn't make the event any more peaceful. Constant outbursts often led the debaters off topic.

Like last year's debate, there was a major focus on whether a fetus can be considered a human. Stern and Malloy both argued that while a fetus is reliant on the mother, the fetus is a parasite and not considered a human.

Stew yelled out and argued with Nemmer to allow her to speak and address the abortion-rights party's concern with the Center For Bio-Ethical Reform's signs that compared abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides.

"Jews were not wanted in Germany, African Americans were not wanted in America and what is a fetus - not wanted," Stew shouted.

The debate concluded with closing words from Andzel and Franzonella.

Within the last few minutes, Malloy returned to the lecture hall with his closing words.

"We live in a country where we have our morals ... and no one has the right to infringe them on other people," Malloy said.

Phil Tucciarone, a junior chemical engineering major, walked to the front of the room to explain why the abortion-rights debaters walked out.

"I'm not telling you what either team is trying to say," Tucciarone said.

He said that many people were unhappy with how the debate was planned and that many supporters of the abortion-rights party boycotted the debate, which is why there was a lack of support.

"Without any preparation, they jumped into the lion's den," Tucciarone said. "They stepped up and wanted to do something."

After the past two years, it can be expected there will be another abortion debate in April 2014.


Email: features@ubspectrum.com

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